The Republic of Venice
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Venice is a low-lying city, and I was not much impressed with the city at first. It seemed charming and unusual, but also bedraggled. I was tiring out, revived only by a glass of prosecco, a sparkling white Italian wine that I had at 5 pm in a quiet square frequented by the locals.
Then our tour guide led us to St. Mark's Square, and I was impressed! It is beautiful, lined with two colonnades, and huge! One end of St. Mark’s Square is anchored by St. Mark’s Basilica, and next to it is the Doge’s Palace, as well as the famed Venetian harbour.
I was so tired that day that I decided to skip dinner and have a very early night.
The next day, a tour mate and I decided to visit St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. St. Mark’s Basilica, according to tradition, actually has the body of St. Mark. The Venetians…um…stole it from Alexandria, Egypt around 800 A.D. and brought the body of the evangelist to Venice.
All around Venice, you’ll see the symbol of the Venetian state, a winged lion with his paws on a book inscribed with Latin words. The winged lion is the traditional icon for St. Mark. The words in Latin read, "Here your body will find rest." According to legend, St. Mark was shipwrecked on a Venetian lagoon, and had a dream in which an angel told him that while he will die elsewhere, he will be buried in Venice.
I went into the Basilica, and the body of St. Mark is entombed underneath the main altar. On top of the altar is a jewel-encrusted golden panel, Byzantine in design. I think the Venetians must have taken the body and the golden panel with them back to Venice
The next place we visited, the Doge’s Palace, is actually the Palace of the ceremonial head of Venice for hundreds of years. Inside we saw the Venetian Senate and state apartments. It was extremely ornate. What most interested me was the map room, a room filled with large wall-sized maps of the world, painted on the walls. Being a nation that traded with the Orient for centuries, the Venetians had an amazingly detailed knowledge of various remote places in the world, even as early as the 15th century. I mean, they knew about cities in India and China! The map was marked names like Delli (Delhi), Gukarat (Gujarat), Arabia (area around the Red Sea), and even Chennu (Chengdu, China). For America, they knew about the state of California, and the rest of America is marked as “Terra Incognito, Anthrophagi,” which means, “Unknown Land, Land of the Cannibals.”
I noted with amusement that the people who governed Venice, which was a committee of 17 people made out of the most aristocratic families, were the same people that made up the judiciary. No separation of powers there! I think that probably made some Venetians dislike their government
After our tour around the Doge’s Palace, we took a ferry to Murano, the glassmaking island, where we bought some souvenirs. I toured the Glass Museum. Romans made glass! I saw these very ornate, pretty glass spirals that looked like hairpins, probably used for applying cosmetics onto a person’s face. I couldn’t believe that these glass pieces were from the 1st century A.D.
Then we headed back into the hotel, where I confirmed my room for the night, and took a breather. Tonight is the final night of our G Adventures tour. We’re having a dinner to celebrate our final night together, then tomorrow will be my extra day in Venice.